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Infectious Protein?

A study in mice suggests that beta-amyloid, a protein that is misfolded in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients, can spread via blood, New Scientist reports.

When mice share a blood supply, beta-amyloid from one mouse can spread to the other to the brains of the other, an international team of researchers reports in Molecular Psychiatry. The team generated transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease that expressed human beta-amyloid. They then attached the transgenic mice to their wild-type littermates so they shared a blood supply and the wild-type mice also began accumulating human beta-amyloid in their brains. This then led to Alzheimer's-like changes in the brains of the wild-type mice, the researchers report.

"The protein can get into the brain from a connected mouse and cause neurodegeneration," author Weihong Song from the University of British Columbia tells New Scientist.

This supports the idea that the Alzheimer's protein may be infectious like a prion, New Scientist adds. Other researchers note that it's too soon to be certain and that the mice should be examined to gauge whether they also undergo cognitive decline.